Now in its fourth year, the Inspired Discoveries Symposium is program that encourages and recognizes research conducted by UB’s undergraduate students. This year’s competition crowned two business school students as the winners. Seniors John Hall and Josh Ziggas were paired randomly in Professor Deepak Sharma’s statistical data analysis class in the fall of 2012. Their project, “Improving Direct Mail Efficacy,” analyzed direct mail marketing data as it pertained to the real estate industry.
Hall, a real estate and economic development major, and Ziggas, an information systems and technology management major, used data obtained from a local bank to compare the success of two distinct direct mailing pieces. They were then able to identify the factors that were important in improving the success rate of closing mortgage loans.
“Josh and I entered the Inspired Discoveries competition after Professor Sharma approached us with the application,” said Hall. “I saw furthering our class research and competing in the symposium as an opportunity to expand what I already knew about how statistics could be used to increase profits.”
When first approached by their professor, the pair weren’t sure they wanted to compete for the $500 Inspired Discoveries scholarship. According to Sharma, both students were facing several classroom assignments and other challenges while preparing for the competition.
“They managed to complete their project just a few hours before the deadline,” Sharma, a visiting professor in decision science and the research adviser of the duo. “It was their professionalism and dedication that helped them to conquer the challenges. I am very happy that they won the competition and I wish them luck for all of their future endeavors.”
Hall credits Sharma for inspiring him to delve further into the research and sees the symposium scholarship as a bonus. The partnership with his peer and having fun while conducting research is the real reward, he explained.
“I learned a lot from this project and specifically Professor Sharma’s input—which was both supportive and effective,” Hall said. “He allowed Josh and me to steer the direction of the project and then he’d drop subtle hints or suggestions to help us find clarity. I think that he did a tremendous job of letting us learn from our mistakes and discover what worked and what would not.”
Hall is currently working in the mortgage banking industry and believes that Ziggas’ perspectives as an information systems student really helped the project.
“He wasn't afraid to pose questions or make suggestions,” Hall said. “I really enjoyed his input and felt that while Josh didn't have the years of experience in the mortgage industry like I did, he really strived to learn more about the industry in order to help us succeed.”
According to the team, countless hours were spent with this project and they were able to demonstrate that a marketing communications strategy that had been in use for about 10 years could be altered and improved. With what they learned in the classroom they were able to use the statistical analyses to determine that they could increase the success rate of closing loans for the bank and increase profits if a just few changes were made to the marketing communication strategy of future direct mail campaigns.
“In the end, all the hard work was worth it, Hall concluded. “I feel that this project has helped me apply statistics to real world situations in order to better comprehend that history can be used to improve the future.”
Inspired Discoveries is a collaboration of Langsdale Library, the Helen P. Denit Honors Program, the Office of Sponsored Research and the Office of the Provost. This symposium is part of an ongoing effort to recognize and encourage undergraduate research and other academic achievements at the University of Baltimore.